There are some hotels I like, some I love, and a few that break my heart to leave. Perivolas falls into the latter category, and on checking out, such was my melancholia that I felt compelled to tell myself to buck up and pull myself together.
That’s not to say the hotel is perfect. There are little things here and there I could criticise, but such is the warmth of the welcome, the beauty of the rooms, the feeling of light and the stunning views that Perivolas now stands out as one of my favourite hotels in the world.
The pint-sized island of Santorini is famous for its pretty, white-cave houses, winding footpaths and sparkling waters. The concept of Perivolas is essentially a continuation of the village of Oia on the north of the island and, in fact, it’s hard to distinguish the boundary of the property. Little stone paths twist and turn on the hotel’s modest footprint towards the seafront, with cave-like suites, all whitewashed and inviting, numbering only 21 (leaving out a number 13), and all facing the spectacular sunset.
Set as it is within a short walk of the restaurants, bars and shops of Oia, there are a few light diversions, but this hotel is not for the intrepid traveller looking for adventure. Neither is this a sprawling hotel with extensive facilities, 24-hour room service and a myriad dining options. This is the definition of boutique: cosy and spacious with staff who make you feel at home. It’s completely unpretentious, and at the same time incredibly elegant. Above all, it’s somewhere I intend to return to.
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I pulled up at an unassuming car park, where I was met by the delightful guest services woman greeting me with a huge grin, perhaps aware of the treat in store for me. A few steps up to the brow of the hill and we looked onto an archetypal Santorini view: whitewashed domes leading down to a sheltered sea within the island’s caldera, all beneath crisp, Grecian sunlight. I was led down a pretty path to what felt like the living room of a private cave house. A photocopy of my passport was taken and I was escorted straight to my room.
Rooms and suites
I stayed in the New Perivolas Suite, an extraordinary place. The private terrace offers breathtaking views over the caldera and out towards Oia with its picturesque churches and houses. A private pool, styled in the ubiquitous and calming whitewashed look, comes complete (I was thrilled to see) with a built-in sunbed. The surrounding terrace offers two further sunbeds, an umbrella for shade and a table and chairs.
You’d think that the layout, with the doors at the front (one into the living area and one into the bedroom area), would make the suite dark or claustrophobic, but the white walls and careful lighting give this room a cosy, cocooned, comforting feel. It has an effortless look that surely took a great deal of work to achieve.
On a more practical note, the electrics here are old school and intuitive. There are plenty of plug sockets, a good wi-fi connection and effective and quiet a/c (although the caves are cool enough not to need it all the time). This is not a hotel, or indeed an island, for those with mobility issues. All the suites are only accessible via footpaths and stairs, and although distances are not great, you need to be able to walk a little to get around.
Elements of what you would find in a bathroom are dotted around the suite. For example, the make-up area is in the bedroom, while the sink is practically in the living room, but as everything is open-plan, it works. The make-up table is well lit with no fewer than three plug points, as well as a shaving mirror. The lighting here is pretty good too, and there is a good hairdryer. At the back of the living area is a steam room and a heated hot tub, which I couldn’t initially see myself using but, in fact, it was cool enough one evening to have a warming, predinner dip.
The toiletries, made by Rituals, are a rather measly 30ml but they are replenished regularly.
There is only one restaurant at the resort, and the food is mostly Greek or a modern take on Greek recipes. I had some delicious meatballs and some wonderful, fresh bread served with light and fragrant olive oil. I also tried the octopus with fava beans and a touch of ouzo, not something I would normally have liked but it brought the dish together. The servings were modestly sized, so unlike after other Greek meals I have known and loved, I went to bed feeling satisfied rather than bloated.
The restaurant setting commands very pretty views over Oia, and it’s worth reserving a private terrace, of which there are a few, for uninterrupted views.
Breakfast is a fairly modest buffet, with a supplementary a la carte menu, and is offered until 11.30am, allowing for the most leisurely of meals, drinking in the view. The Greek-style scrambled eggs with feta were a revelation, as was the deliciously creamy local yoghurt.
Other restaurant options
Within a short walking distance of the hotel are many great eateries, from local tavernas to sophisticated restaurants. The hotel will book for you; reservations essential.
Spa and wellness
The spa and gym are set in one cave and, sensibly, the hotel closes the gym area when treatments are going on. There are only a handful of the standard machines and some free weights and mats, not an extensive offering for any serious gym bunnies out there.
One small but perfectly formed treatment room offers a modest selection of body massages, combining wraps and scrubs and using products by Luminesce.
Pool and beach
Due to the geography of the island, you don’t come here for beaches, but Perivolas does have a very pretty pool. It’s not quite large enough for serious laps but it’s perfect for a cooling dip, and most afternoons it’s a social setting with guests chatting to each other and swapping Santorini stories. All the suites have sunbeds, even if they don’t all have pools, and this combined with the terraces dotted around offering more sunbathing spots means you’re never short of a place to relax.
It’s possible to take boats around the island, and Perivolas can make arrangements in this regard, but there isn’t much of a watersports scene.
Perivolas doesn’t accept children under 16, and it really doesn’t feel like a kids’ place. Anyone other than the most tranquil of teenagers would probably quickly get bored with what the island has to offer, and in many ways it’s a blessed relief as the hotel intentionally has a soporific tranquillity.
Staff and service
Every single member of staff was charming, well informed and willing to please. On my behalf they made efficient restaurant reservations, rearranged transfers and indulged my every whim. However, it’s necessary to be patient with the occasional person’s limited English, or the odd wait on the end of the phone while the two people on reception are otherwise occupied. Being such a small hotel on an overstretched island must bring challenges, but with its incredible settings and suites, I found it hard not to forgive any minor fault or oversight.
As the hotel doesn’t accept children, it tends to attract couples, either honeymooners or older couples. There is the occasional mother-daughter duo and singles or friends travelling together.
I left the hotel with a heavy heart. Luggage was efficiently pre-loaded and I quickly settled the bill.
How to get there
25 minutes by road transfer from Santorini Airport
20 rooms & suites